Friends of the Serengeti

The item pictured below is from the same geographic area as the coinage above but a different age - in fact about 45 years later.

It has been included here because of its extreme rarity.

Just before Tanganyika gained independence in 1963 a group of well-heeled conservationists concerned about the fate of East Africa's wild life set up a fund called the "Friends of the Serengeti". The Patron was Prince Phillip (Queen Elizabeth's husband).

Reginald Osmund Balson, Scott's father, was awarded a unique honour when given a car badge by the "Friends of the Serengeti" for services rendered to the isolated Tanganyikian Little Ruaha Game Reserve a day's drive away from the small town of Iringa. When the Little Ruaha river was in flood the town of Iringa was cut off by road. Reg Balson managed the Tanganyika Farmer's Association (TFA) in Iringa and in his spare time helped the resident game warden get supplies and emergency aid with the help of a radio phone. The car badge, which provides the occupants of the vehicle bearing it with free accommodation in any of Tanganyika's game reserves, is an extremely rare collectable - the "Friends of the Serengeti" being disbanded soon after Tanganyika's independence in 1963. The validity of this promise (free accommodation) has never been put to the test and the car badge has never been attached to a car - remaining in the box in which it was presented to Reg Balson in 1962.

The badge itself is moulded out of solid brass and has a green surround in a disc about three inches in diameter struck onto a base with two holes for attachment to a vehicle. The words "Friends of the Serengeti" in brass are raised through a green acrylic backdrop on the borders. The white centre of the badge is separated from the green border by another thin raised circle of brass. A Springbok jumps over a thorn tree cast into the white backdrop with the borders of the greenery and the branches of the tree once again being cast out of raised brass breaking through the white and green acrylic colouration. While the white colour is solid the green is covered in a thin layer of transparent acrylic with the green, on closer inspection, having a delightful metallic sheen to it.

A search on "Friends of the Serengeti" on "Google" reveals only four links to this long forgotten symbol of colonisation - and all slam the ideals of those "powerful donors" behind animal conservation in East Africa at that time.

A typical example found at the "Ngorongoro Voices" web site reads,

Conservation organisations who are most closely associated with NCA come in for particular criticism for using their power as donors to push wildlife conservation at the expense of local people.

"There are big shots who are really behind these things. It is these white people who are destroying us. When it comes to the survival of these protected areas, they are the ones who are behind all this. It is these white men's organisations like Frankfurt Zoological Society, like IUCN, like Friends of the Serengeti..which are destroying us"

(Parmitoro Kassiaro, former Oloirobi ward Councillor)

The University of Arizona Library Manuscript Collection refers to a "medallion" that they received from the Friends of the Serengeti at this link, the note states, "A Group interested in saving great Parklands in Tanzania".

The Tanzanian official web site with voice over can be seen at this link

The new Friends of the Serengeti web site can be seen at this link

Perhaps, the most intriguing factor here is the fact that the Little Ruaha River which flows into the Rufiji.... was the link between the African people and those of the Fijian's - where Scott Balson has established Fijian Village Homestays to assist the impoversihed villagers.

The Fijian's believe that their forefathers recently (about 600 years ago) came from Tanganyika the accepted cradle of man!